Colin Taylor

As well as being a painter, Colin has nearly 30 experience of climbing and working in mountains. He was born in the East Midlands and studied art and drama at Trent Polytechnic, Nottingham in the mid-eighties following which he taught C20 Art History at the local FE College. In 1987 he re-located to Manchester, worked for The Guardian and Manchester Evening News and then crossed to the dark side and worked for an advertising agency eventually specialising in economic development and destination marketing.

CT in studio March 08 001 (3)_edited Following a ‘road to Damascus’ moment in a Lake District cafe in the early 90’s, he was part of a company start-up running an indoor climbing centre in a disused church and which still operates today.

In 2008/09 he undertook A short walk in the big landscape’, an Arts Council funded series of nine solo exhibitions re-visiting Thomas West’s eighteenth century viewing stations around the lake District. In 2010, he was invited to undertake a year-long residency at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral which led to an exhibition of 30+ drawings and which later transferred to Cologne, Germany. He has had exhibitions in New York, Washington DC and in 2015 also exhibits in Paris for the first time.

Four years ago he began work on a series of ‘cityscapes’ …of the Manchester City skyline from the top of several of the city’s tallest buildings. This project ends with an exhibition at Contemporary Six, of this single body of work  – all so far unseen and completely new to the market, in June 2015.

“I am motivated by the idea of a visual language that communicates more than what I see or what I can explain. In truth, it is probably more about what I can’t explain, but know to be there.

Whilst I have only just started to unwrap what that proposition means in terms of my own arts practice, (and in all probability I doubt that I will ever get to its core), my belief in its importance is now well established.

For some time I had been sure that there was some kind of reciprocal relationship between the experience of being within a huge natural landscape and my own art practice. It took some time though, before this connection became obvious enough for me to understand that climbing mountains was less of a physical activity and much more of a psychological challenge. That realisation meant that I had to find a way of embedding something of the effort and emotion experienced into my work and not just reproduce the visual panorama in a factual and leaden way.

This intangibility is of course impossible to nail down since it defies known logic, verbal explanation, and is ever-changing – but it seems to me, just about plausible that you can paint or draw ‘about’ the landscape experience, and not just the landscape itself.

There is a sense of uncertainty about the proposition and I readily admit that I don’t really hold out much hope in unearthing some kind of confirmation – but then it is only with uncertainty that real creativity exists at all and what emerges from such uncertainty are ‘outcomes’, not solutions. Each painting, drawing, sketch or scribble is an imperfect outcome but which hopefully adds a little to the experience beyond leaden fact.

In another context, someone once described painting as a ‘site of struggle, doubt and pleasure’ and this is just about as good a definition of the act of painting as I have found, (interestingly, it applies equally well to climbing mountains), each painting or drawing is either a continuation or reaction against previous image and only a bridge between that and the next and it is within each, that the ‘struggle’ has to be played out.”

EXHIBITIONS :

2015
Susan Calloway Fine Art, Washington DC, USA
Contemporary Six, Manchester
Galerie Orenda, Paris, France.

2014
The Ropewalk Arts Centre, Humberside.
Susan Calloway Fine Art, Washington DC, USA
Gorstella Gallery, Chester
Longitude Gallery, Lancashire
Josephine Harpur Fine Art, Cambridge

2013
Denbigh Arts Centre, North Wales (Solo exhibition)
Denise Yapp Fine Art, Monmouth (Solo exhibition)
Wendy J Levy Gallery, Manchester (Solo exhibition)
Susan Calloway Fine Art, Washington DC, USA (Solo exhibition)

2012
Cologne City Hall, Germany (Solo exhibition)
Brenda Taylor Gallery, New York, USA (Solo exhibition)

2011
Liverpool Anglican Cathedral (Solo exhibition)
Highgate Institute, London (Solo exhibition)
Wendy J Levy Gallery, Manchester (Solo exhibition)

2010
Art Miami,
Brenda Taylor Gallery, New York.
San Diego Art Fair
Wendy J Levy Gallery, Manchester

2009
Doncaster Museum and Art Gallery (Solo exhibition)
Wendy J Levy Gallery, Manchester (Solo exhibition)

2008
Denbigh Library and Art Gallery (Solo exhibition)
Brindley Arts Centre, Runcorn
Galanthus Gallery, Hereford
Cooper Gallery, Canterbury University (Solo exhibition)

2007
‘Changing 8’ Liverpool Hope University
Wendy J Levy Gallery, Manchester
Rhyll Arts Centre, Denbighshire

Previous Selected exhibitions:
Derby City Art Gallery
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham. Touring Exhibition
Oriel Gallery, Clwyd
Galleri Lang, Malmo, Sweden.
Mansfield Art Gallery
Stockport Art Gallery & Museum
BDP Preston.
Gallerie Impact, Albi, Toulouse, France

Cityscapes/Wordscapes

Paintings by Colin Taylor/Poems by Antony Rowland

Reviewed by Sandra Gibson

The Cityscapes/Wordscapes exhibition at Contemporary Six brings together the work of artist Colin Taylor and poet Antony Rowland: both concerned with conveying the resonant power of Manchester. By pairing the immediacy of painting with the more gradual unfolding of poetry, an interesting dynamic is created.

Colin Taylor’s views of Manchester have the same sense of spaciousness found in his previous work. His climber’s viewpoint is what we have – this and pervasive light, the contrasting solidity of colour depth, linear certainty, and form: form which may not be form, but space. And it is this apparent ambiguity – sky? misted building? distant landscape? all of the above? – that defines the core of this artist’s approach: “my work is not an optical expression, but an emotional one”. Photographic accuracy and topographical recognition are not the main aim here; the product is essentially an experiential process: “what I do is make visual images that are my field of research into a language that communicates more than what I see or what I can explain. In truth, it is probably more about what I can’t explain – but know to be there – and I’m equally sure I will never really be able to arrive at a coherent explanation, but my belief in its importance is now irreversible”.

And this is the experience that Colin Taylor’s Manchester paintings communicated to me, at that time and in that space: an immense realisation of the way geographical location has preceded human endeavour, and determined and dominated all that takes place at the human level, just as the motive power of waterways and roads and bridges sweeps through these paintings, determining their composition. The mightier forces are thus felt to obscure the ground-level minutiae, including here the human figures, which are not physically present. Rather they are represented by the fruits of their ingenuity and labour: infra-structure and buildings and continual renewal.

A painting grants immediacy of view; an immediate overall impression; an intuitive comprehension that precedes the rational, considered reaction. A poem, by virtue of the way language works, is a different way of looking: a more gradual revealing of what it there. Of course, initially, the eye discerns the overall shape and line length and divisions in a poem but the experience of the work is linear and cumulative. If Colin Taylor is using the juxtaposition of form and space and colour to convey the ambiguous, often unfathomable experience of place, Antony Rowland’s carefully chosen words and images address the minutiae at street level. For example, the precise naming of location and building: “the lost river Dene/and Hanging Ditch, Irk to Irwell/where the Hilton pummels a mansion”, or a sense of history: “as the night tiles to your first pint/where scutchers honed cotton fibre”, or rapid change: “This since photo/has been bulldozed over nights”. Then there’s the vivid narrative with character and dark deed: “where Stephen Oake/- DC with a memorial/hated with a chisel and daub -/drips on the threshold, weighted/with the suspect he will stumble/under” or the specificity of arresting image: “seborrheic road-dumps” or “Pollarded trees spike the heat” or “Late and gone, the nettle rails” or “water slops consumer dark”. Reinforcing this precision of detail is a tight format: 16 lines of 8 syllables, a strong use of short-vowelled, monosyllabic emphasis and the use of words from other cultures.

These are demanding poems in that the reader/listener will be required to follow parallel narratives which move between contemporary issues and ancient habitations, and an innovative use of language whose literal sense is not necessarily the point. Like Colin Taylor’s paintings, these poems are better experienced than analysed. As John Powell Ward has written: “Particles of observation, incomplete phrases and strange juxtapositions seem welded by some hidden charge into a power of feeling”.

Does it enhance the viewers’ or readers’ experience to recognise the places, the buildings, the confluences? I suppose it does, in that ‘you are here’ Google Earth sense, but you don’t have to be a Mancunian to fully experience Colin Taylor’s shifting, light-filled, structure-crammed and colour-celebrated Manchester or Antony Rowland’s richly worded linguistic evocation of this vibrant city.

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